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Many attributes contribute to being a good leader, but the most overlooked quality, and arguably the most important, is self-awareness. Self-awareness is required to develop a myriad of crucial leadership skills such as strong listening skills, managing emotions, and resolving conflict. Self-awareness is at the root of so many interpersonal skills, and the importance of developing self-aware leaders should not be taken lightly.

What is self-awareness?

Being a self-aware leader means having conscious knowledge of your own characteristics, emotions, feelings and responses. It enables you to understand your strengths, weaknesses, triggers, motivators and other character traits. Being self-aware means that you take a deeper look at your emotions, why you feel a certain way, how your feelings could turn into reactions and the impact those actions might have on you and those around you.

Self-awareness is at the core of successful leadership. Leaders who lack self-awareness will always be limited in what they can achieve. They will struggle to make the best decisions, develop the strongest teams and balance all of the demands that come with leadership.

What self-aware leaders do differently

Lean into their strengths

Self-aware leaders understand themselves to a greater degree. They can then use this knowledge to play to their strengths, develop their areas of weakness, and surround themselves with other people who have strengths that fill the gaps. Self-aware leaders take responsibility for their emotions, behaviours and actions. They learn from their successes and their mistakes to help improve communication, influence, and decision-making in the future.

Develop resilience

By developing a greater understanding of themselves, self-aware leaders are far more resilient. They understand their emotional triggers, understand how to minimise triggering events and control their behaviours and actions when they do become triggered.

Often, when management and leadership roles, we are so transfixed on managing and maintaining other’s emotional well-being, performance and responsibility that we forget to evaluate our own. We forget that we can only help others if we understand how and take action to look after ourselves first, which comes hand-in-hand with being self-aware.

Recognise and manage their limitations

Not only are self-aware leaders able to identify their areas of weakness, but they are also able to examine their vulnerabilities without judgement. In turn, this enables them to feel comfortable being open and honest about their limitations with others and take positive and appropriate action to develop their skills in these areas or delegate activities to others who already possess the required skills.

Lead by example

By taking the time to develop self-awareness and continually seek feedback from those around you, you will lead by example and encourage others to develop their self-awareness. Furthermore, being a self-aware leader can bring about higher levels of confidence and self-assurance, skills of which you could then pass onto others.

Communicate more effectively

Having a clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses allows for more effective communication, enabling self-aware leaders better to recognise their impact on the people around them. They have the presence of mind to see when they offend someone or talk over someone’s head, leaving them confused. They can also recognise when people are honest with them and when people are too intimidated to ask questions. In short, self-aware people have the necessary foundation to be more conversationally intelligent.

The organisational benefits of self-aware leadership

Self-aware leaders naturally pass on their attributes to the rest of the workforce. They help others see that it is okay to be vulnerable, identify our limitations, and start a ripple of positive influence throughout the organisation. They attract self-aware followers, ultimately creating a higher sense of authority and professionalism throughout your establishment or organisation. Self-aware leaders have a better sense of conduct and responsibility and understand how they can use their influence to benefit others and themselves positively.

Every business could benefit from not only strong leaders but self-aware leaders. Through having a self-aware leader, your organisation will begin to transform from the inside out, bringing about a sense of professionalism and practicality. Self-awareness in leadership guarantees to better your leaders but those they lead.

The benefits of you being a self-aware leader

Self-awareness is empowering because it arms you with the knowledge to make more informed decisions and make better choices. As a result, you grow and provide yourself with the opportunity to reach your full potential and excel in your role.

Having such clear awareness of your strengths and limitations and accepting them enables you to analyse situations and take the necessary next steps appropriately. You work smarter with more significant results and achieving more in less time. You are generally less stressed and more resilient.

By becoming more self-aware, you are in a more advantageous position to evaluate and adapt your leadership style as necessary appropriate. It also gives you a much better chance of understanding the biases and prejudices that you did not know that you had.

Developing self-awareness

As with any skill, self-awareness can be developed and should continually be practised. We all have blind spots when it comes to our own abilities. A simple way to start breaking those blind spots down is with personality and psychometric assessments. By getting an unbiased, professional, outside opinion about how you function at work, what drives you, and your workplace strengths and limitations, you can start to see yourself with clearer eyes and adjust your leadership strategy accordingly.

For ways to improve your self-awareness, read our article Developing your self-awareness. Alternatively, contact us to discuss how we can support you in becoming a more self-aware leader.

Author: Gemma Rolstone | Published 3rd May 2021